This was our second time here. I wanted to post a few things that might help when deciding whether or not to go and how to prepare and plan your day if going.
My daughters' altar server group from the church had planned a trip for this August Wednesday and it just so happened it was a hot sunny day after a week or so of rain and iffy weather. We knew it would be packed, but could not change the day. I decided to drive out and meet them with my 7 year old son and sister.
Gates open at 10, but they do start processing tickets earlier and letting you get to the lockers, so try to be in the lot by 9:30. I can't stress this enough. The best part of the day was from 10-12. They hold a rope to keep you from the rides until 10, but at least you can have everything done you need to do when that happens if you get there earlier.
Also: you will park very close to the gate and get a locker if early. People who arrive late take trams to their car. And a man on line at a ride later in the day said they ran our of lockers, so your car will be far away AND you will not get a locker. Not fun. The lockers outside the gate may still be available, but they are not all day lockers. He was mistakenly told this by a staff member and had to keep going out to put money throughout the day.
Lockers: they give you a key and it has a number. The large lockers hold about a small backpack, no more. The large ones are hardly large, maybe two backpacks .
When we arrived I sent my sons and sister on the first ride you see when you get in, and went to find chairs. This line will build like crazy later and is a good one to ride right away.
Chairs: we wanted a "home base" but did not want to pay for a cabana. I heard mixed things about them and the cost was not an option. I found a great chair spot! At the bottom of mammoth river there is sandy "beach" with lounges. I put towels on the backs of a few and put a duffel bag on one. I did not leave anything of value, the bag had only sunscreen and a large beach blanket, and the bag has my last name on it, as I was worried about security. This area is great, somewhat centrally located, near a bathroom, and right near a snack bar. By 2 Pm there were no chairs free.
Tip: bring an old towel or some paper towels. At 10 am the chairs were not only wet with dew, but not exactly clean. I would have like to wipe them off! The nearby bathroom does not have paper towel, only hand dryers. And the snack shack had no napkins!
Shoes: we had flip flops we left at the towels and went barefoot most of the day. You can keep shoes on and leave them in cubbies outside each ride. Some people wear aqua sox on rides. It's personal preference.
Food: you cannot bring anything into the park. Water is expensive, of course. I did not see water fountains. Luckily, most of the park is shaded so we didn't feel the 90 degree heat as much. The food is below most theme parks. Yes, it's pricey, unhealthy and mediocre. I didn't see a fruit anywhere. But the one main food area has all the expected stuff, and the tables do not fill up, no matter the time of day it seemed. We had planned on going to the car for lunch. You can get your hand stamped and return. But when we walked to the front gate around 12:30 and saw the lines we decided to eat lunch in the park and have our sandwiches for the ride home.
Waterproof important stuff: you can carry your key around and keep going back to the locker for your stuff, but a better tip: I bought a waterproof wallet on a lanyard a few years ago on amazon that holds some money, a credit card and my license. (It used to hold my blackberry but my iPhone is too big, time to shop for a new one) I strongly advise buying something like this before. They sell them at the shop, but the inexpensive one will not hold your iPhone or similar sized phone, and the large one that did was $45! There are two reasons it is a good idea: it easier than going back to the locker for money. A person on our church trip had a terrible experience that day. He lost his locker key in the wave pool. A person found it, went to his locker, and stole his phone and credit card. Imagine being stuck there without your debit card ( and cash if he had that in there as well it would have been gone) and phone? Get a lanyard.
The crowd: you need to be open minded. It is a diverse crowd. I have never seen so many tattoos, piercings and large people in way too sexy bathing suits. There were groups of teenagers/kids without parents. But I did not see the types of line cutting or bad behavior all day. People were pretty cool despite the hot weather and long lines later in the day.. Judge on behavior not looks and it is fine.
Security: the park needs to do a better job telling people about making theirlocker key secure. I think they need a new system. Having the number on the key is a security problem hotels got away from years ago. Maybe they could have keys without numbers and write the number of your arm in sharpie? If you lose your key it is at worst, a security nightmare if the wrong person finds it, and at best, a hassle getting the park to open your locker. A child in our church group lost hers in the lazy river. They did find it but getting back on line and having a few girls look for it, but what an annoyance! We cannot be the only people with this problem!
Closing: the time was 6 pm the night we went. We were going to the lockers about 5:45 and the park was still full and going strong. I think they close lines down at 6 (although the wave pool was closed by then) and allow anyone on the line to ride. That is a guess. But I can say that. With the amount of people in the park, that the locker area and changing area next to it would become a zoo once all those crowds started leaving. I would consider leaving at closing instead of getting in one more ride.
The park also needs to redo its locker areas. There is not enough space between the rows of lockers for the amount of people that crowd in throughout the day.
Bathrooms: the ones in the front of the park always seemed to have extremely long lines. We went first thing in the morning and they were old and not the cleanest already. But the ones near our chairs by the mammoth river exit (look like a log cabin) were a little better. They actually had an attendant who went in each bathroom after it was used to wipe down the seat. Great idea! Hope they pay her a lot of money!
Cleanliness: It was clean enough. Some places needed more cleaning up throughout the day, but it wasn't gross. They do need more garbage cans. Often we had to look around to find one. Many people apparently would stop looking and just drop their garbage. The park could help themselves by having more cans.
Staff: we never encountered ride stuff. Disinterested? Often. But a few we're friendly and we found that if we started talking they were often likely to be friendly. But it is clearly not something that is in their training or it would be more obvious. I did see guests being nasty to staff and the staff handling it well. (Dealing with the public is a tough job!)
Suggestions for the park: more food stands throughout the park, more clocks (forgot a waterproof watch and meeting up with others is tough without knowing the time), more bathrooms, water fountains, benches, more park maps on billboards because nobody wants to carry a paper map on water rides, clearer labeling of what a ride is, how many people am go on it, etc at the entrance before the lines, better directions/labels of where things are in the park, some healthy food such as fruit and salads (only saw one chicken salad wrap thing), better locker facilities and a solution to the locker key number issue.
Overall: it is a fun time, the rides are pretty cool (I know I didn't get into that but we had so much fun on many of the rides) and with some planning and a relaxed attitude you will have fun.
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